Consumers continue to invest in outdoor rooms

With so much access to nature on our doorsteps, it is no surprise that Australians love spending time outside. And with an ongoing growing trend towards enjoying outdoor living at home, many are investing in their backyards and creating private sanctuaries to escape the daily grind.

According to the 2017 Adbri Masonry Great Australian Backyard Survey, there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of Australian homeowners planning to invest
in their backyard, from the previous year. This is because there is no other space in the home that is so multi-functional.
The most notable display of this trend is how we are using our outdoor rooms as an extension of our interior spaces, complete with furniture, patios, comfortable seating areas, gardens and even themed spaces that further personalise the space.
While the desire for a seamless transition from indoors to out may seem an easy goal, there are many important factors to consider, specifically that indoor products like tiles, furniture and décor items are not designed to withstand the often harsh weather, rain and UV exposure.
Adbri Masonry brand ambassador, Jason Hodges, recently provided some helpful tips on what you can suggest to your customers when making the most of their outdoor space.

1. Create a social hub
Homeowners are always looking to make better use of their outdoor space, primarily, as a place to entertain. Th is may be easily created through either fashionable outdoor furniture or informal seating created with materials (such as Adbri AB® courtyard blocks), that allow home owners to easily construct custom, free standing creations such as informal seating, fire pits or barbeque areas. Bi-fold doors could also maximise the potential of outdoor spaces.

2. Create a healthy outdoor room
Your customers may even be tempted to make use of an unused space and create an outdoor sanctuary which is perfect for growing an edible landscape. To do this, they may wish to install raised garden beds and then plant herbs and vegetables close to the kitchen, rather than digging into the ground.
“For a quick and easy veggie planter box, try Versawall® which is a DIY winner”, Adbri Masonry Brand Ambassador, Jason Hodges said recently.

3. A space for family time
Creating outdoor rooms also provides time-poor parents with a fun environment for children to play safely, away from technology. Mr Hodges suggests your customers may consider installing a paved courtyard that leads into a turfed area, so the area can be used in all weather conditions. Th is may be combined with raised garden beds to allow children to learn about growing fruit and veggies and eating nutritious food.

4. Create your own home office
According to Planet Ark research, there are significant health and environmental benefits to incorporating nature into daily routines, with 86 per cent of Australians who have a close connection to nature proving to be significantly happier, according to Adbri Mason Great Australian Backyard Survey, 2017.
“With the number of people working from home on the rise, so too is the popularity of the outdoor office. Create a workspace that will allow you to be inspired, focused and help to promote a low carbon lifestyle. After a solid foundation is paved, use easy to maintain garden beds, vertical green walls, and water features to transform the yard into a relaxing environment,” Mr Hodges said.

Grow your own phenomenon gains momentum
The ‘grow your own’ phenomenon is maturing and consumers are becoming more educated in the health benefits of producing fresh fruit and vegetables at home, according to Takasho Australasia Managing Director, Andrew Hogg.
Consumers are also becoming more experienced in vegetable growing methods and are having more success with their home crops, which is also leading to an increase in the volume of produce grown at home and in experimenting with newer collections marketed as ‘super foods’ for instance, according to Mr Hogg.
“Greening of indoor spaces at home or in the office is also gaining traction as studies are continually released on the health benefits of using plants indoors to clean air and aid in relaxation,” he said.
“I believe that the garden and outdoor living industry is very buoyant and is shaping up for what will be a very busy spring season. With consumers becoming increasingly busy and stressed, it seems green spaces are also providing consumers with the opportunity to unwind, de-stress and feel at one with nature.”
“A term for this was used many years ago when consumers created their own green space and I think that we are at this same point again. We like the comfort and security of our homes and we are developing our garden spaces into sanctuaries that we can totally relax in,” Mr Hogg said.
It is for this reason that Takasho Australasia recently launched several new products onto the Australian market, with many of these products strongly supported by independent retail groups such as the Independent Hardware Group, according to Mr Hogg.
“Just some of the new products launched include the new patent pending Wooden Planters under the VegTrug brand, which were specifically produced using FSC®(Forestry Stewardship Council) 100 per cent certified timber, as the use of responsibly sourced materials is a big focus for the Takasho Group. On top of this, sales of our raised VegTrug beds and all the accessories (greenhouse, plant supports, side tables, etc.) are going from strength to strength,” he said.
Released in early 2017, the VegTrug Wooden Barrel Planters are available in three sizes, while the Wooden Trough Planters are due to be released in two varieties this spring, and the Wooden Square Planters will also be released in three sizes.
The VegTrug™ Wooden Barrel Planter has a burnt oak finish and was designed specifically for cottage gardens, patio areas or near door entrances, it is also made from plastic to prevent it from rotting.
Advantages of the VegTrug™ Wooden Barrels include: innovative plastic base providing maximum drainage and ventilation (patent pending), prevents roots rotting, no additional drainage required, weather resistant, long lasting planter, 100 per cent FSC® sustainable wood and air can also penetrate soil to prevent root circling.
All planters are presented in a full colour display to maximise sales in stores, while new colours of the VegTrug range will be released in the next year. Mr Hogg also said there are several exciting new developments underway for another launch in 2018.
“The main point of difference with Takasho is that we are the producers, importers and wholesalers of gardening products and we have a network of Takasho sales offices in Japan, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, USA, England and Germany. We share market intelligence from around the world in the hope to keep track of emerging trends,” Mr Hogg said.
Takasho Group along with head office based in Japan, of which Takasho Australasia Pty Ltd is majority owned, built a new 100 per cent owned factory in China two years ago and is now in full production.
“The main advantage of this factory is that we have five distinct areas of production on the one site including timber, steel, sewing (Greenhouses Felt Planters) and LED/lighting and plastic (Injection Moulding). This allows us to develop products using mixed materials that can be produced at the one site,” he said.

Generous garden grants for little green thumbs
Yates Junior Landcare Grants for Gardens program is open for applications once again, giving schools the opportunity to build their dream garden or outdoor classroom.
Yates is offering fifteen grants, valued at $2,000 each, to schools, youth groups and childcare centres, who will benefit from $1,500 in funding, $500 of Yates garden products and a growing consultation with a Yates gardening expert.
Yates is excited to again join groups for a consultation and help them uncover the joy of the garden, while also arming kids with the tips and tricks to help their garden thrive.
Interested groups are invited to submit a design for their dream garden within their school grounds or communities, with Yates and Junior Landcare looking for young imaginations to run wild, and think about the kind of garden they would love to grow including: veggie gardens, butterfly gardens, bush tucker and sensory gardens.
Yates Horticultural Communications Manager, Angie Thomas, said she was excited to be offering this program again.
“I am thrilled that this program is again being offered to schools and groups around Australia. There is nothing better than planting your first seed, growing your patch and pulling out your first carrot. Last year’s program saw 1,100 students and 100 volunteers get grubby on 13 fantastic, creative projects. I can’t wait to see the applications this year,” she said.
Landcare Australia Chief Executive Officer, Tessa Jakszewicz, is also encouraging schools to think about the benefits of outdoor learning for students.
“There are over 1,000 gardens in Junior Landcare schools across Australia, and the benefits of projects like these for students are vast. They educate our young people about the importance of caring for our natural environment, where our food comes from, and provides opportunities to link outdoor learning projects with curriculum subjects,” she said.

Living versus fake green-walls
There is no doubt that the popularity of green-walls has significantly grown over the past few years. However, horticulturist and founder of The Greenwall Company, Mark Paul, recently warned of the hidden dangers of fake plants versus living; dangers that your customers should also be made aware of.
“Although the aesthetic of a fake green-wall can be appealing and the faux plant choice has expanded over the years, there are still a number of things to consider. Aside from the lack of health benefits, they are a fire hazard due to the chemicals they are treated with and a health hazard due to the dust they collect,” Mr Paul said.
“The same dust can cause an increase in allergies, especially when placed in closed office spaces. After a number of media reported fake greenwall fires, many commercial property managers have banned them and had existing walls removed,” he said.
Just some of the many benefits of installing a living green-wall include: improved air quality in urban environments with living walls capable of filtering harmful pollutants and dust rather than attracting them; aesthetic appeal with the ability to be a stand out feature or blend into the natural environment; reduced power bills with green-walls capable of regulating interior temperatures; sound insulation because of their ability to absorb up to 10 decibels of sound and are also much lower maintenance because green-walls are often fitted with automated irrigation enabling them to essentially look after themselves.
“Sustainability is at the core of what we do. The plant species are carefully selected for our green roof and greenwall projects. We continue to propagate and contract grow many of these specialised species as most of them are commercially unavailable in Australian horticulture. In addition, all of our walls are made from 94 per cent recycled materials that would be otherwise destined for Australian landfill,” Mr Paul said.

The go anywhere vegetable garden kit
Self-watering wicking beds, Vegepod, boast an array of features including: a micro-climate protection canopy, a full foot of contained soil depth suitable to grow any vegetable, large water reservoirs under the wicking wells that last up to three weeks without watering, irrigation misters lining the canopy ceiling, certifiably food-safe materials, galvanised steel stands (both in regular and trolley options), extra hothouse/propagation covers, as well as flat-packed packaging.
Vegepod’s number one sales channel includes independent nurseries and hardware stores which have proven to be a lucrative and unique offering to users, according to Vegepod Sales and Marketing Manager, Simon Holloway,
“Vegepod is now in 150 garden centres and 40 Mitre 10’s around Australia and it has been very pleasing to find that our range has the same appeal to every demographic. Be it rural or urban, old or young, families or young couples, aged care homes or schools, the wealthy or disadvantaged, black thumb or green thumb, male or female, Vegepods really are saleable to absolutely everyone,” Mr Holloway said.
“We have witnessed a 300 per cent sales growth in independent retailer sales in the last 18 months, despite consumers only just starting to recognise Vegepod as a household brand. The future is bright,” he said.
Vegepod also recently featured in Shark Tank, as well as the program’s ‘Where are they now?’ segment, one year on from its successful appearance in 2016.
“We are receiving regular TV and media exposure these days and the vast majority is unsolicited and unpaid, which is a great sign, and also good for our books. We are experiencing a real snowball effect and the market holds a genuine interest in our unique products,” Mr Holloway said.
“The price-point is clearly effective and we never get any product sent back. This is not just about one year of post-Shark Tank success. We have slogged it out for eight years, refining and tweaking our products to be best-in-class within the entire pots and raised garden bed market. We keep tight personal relations with every one of our
retailers and our distribution operations have come a long way with storage facilities now in most capital cities. All of our media promotion has a direct positive effect for all our retailers too,” he said.
Vegepod also recently featured on The Today Show, Studio Ten, The Project, ABC Gardening Australia, Vasili’s Garden, Better Homes & Gardens and TVSN to name a few, while also remaining heavily involved in a hectic string of trade shows and exhibitions around the globe.
The Vegepod team have remained particularly busy after breaking into international markets in the USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Israel last year, which has even meant an indefinite relocation to California for inventor and founder, Matt Harris, and his family.
Based out of Sydney, brother and CFO, Paul Harris said, “The successful launch into six overseas markets within 10 months has just proven further that the Vegepod range is truly relevant to anyone and everyone. The channel strategies overseas are reflecting our learnings and success in Australia whereby the independent retail outlets are front and centre,” Mr Harris said.
“Perhaps the most critical factor behind this is the understanding and appreciation by our retailers of the upsells. For example, our large pod retails for $349 and 80 per cent of pod buyers grab a stand too (an extra $149), plus 18 bags of premium potting mix, plus seedlings … it really starts adding up to significant revenue,” he said.
For more information visit: www.vegepod.com.au